Kerbal Space Program is a spaceflight simulation game where players fly/control spacecraft such as rockets, spaceplanes, probes, and rovers. It takes place on the fictional planet Kerbin, which is inhabited by green frog-like creatures known as Kerbals. The game has a super-duper realistic physics engine, allowing real-life orbital maneuvers to be simulated, and the game has been sponsored by NASA to create an expansion pack.
So! What is Kerbal Space Program, you might ask? Well, to get into more detail, it's a game where you fly rockets. The End.
Okay, just kidding. First of all, this game was actually released way back in 2011. It went through alpha and beta testing phases before being officially released to PCs on the Steam platform alongside a direct official download verison on June 24, 2011. 8 years later, now it's on more than just computeres, with it being available for Windows, macOS, Linux, Xbox One, and Playstation 4. A Wii U version was in the works, but has been cancelled due to Squad, the developers, re-evaluating whether it's worth the effort to port the game for a dying system (this happened in late 2015).
Alright, so what's the goal of the game? Well, if you're playing in Career mode, you'll start out with some basic rocket parts, like a small booster, a command pod, some fins, parachutes, and containers of "Mystery Goo". You can use the Vehicle Assembly Building to attach parts together into a rocket. Placing a part will cost Cash, which you thankfully have at the start, but it's not much.
When you build your first rocket, it's definitely not going to be enough to get to space due to your part and money constraints, but if you attach Mystery Goo capsules to the sides of your ship and use them in flight, you can see how the goo reacts. This will give you Research Points, which you use to unlock new parts to use.
You see, Mystery Goo is actually just part of one class of parts. There are multiple part categories in the game.
- Crew - Often holds crewmembers in them, or can be used as a robotic crewmember.
- Fuel Tanks - Holds rocket/jet fuel.
- Engines - Lets your rocket fly!
- Command and Control - These include reaction wheels (gives you torque), docking thrusters, and other parts to give your ship more stability and control.
- Structure - Parts that are used to make your ship more seamless and physically stable.
- Coupling - Used to make separate ship stages and add docking ports.
- Payload - Container-like parts.
- Aerodynamics - Wings, flaps, intakes, etc.
- Ground - Wheels, landing gear, and landing legs.
- Thermal - Heatshields and heat radiators.
- Power - Batteries, solar panels, generators, etc.
- Communication - Antennas and satellite dishes.
- Science - Parts used for experimentation in space! This includes the Mystery Goo.
- Utility - Random stuff like parachutes, uncontrollable crew storage, scanners, drills, etc.
A stock rocket that you can load in instantly if you have the parts unlocked.
As you can see here, I have a rocket. There are many different stages to a rocket. First, at the very top, we have the Command Pod. This holds the crew and lets them control the rocket. This is literally the most important part of the rocket.
Directly below that, we have a decoupler. Decouplers detach whatever is on the side the decouplers arrows are facing, meaning if the decoupler attached to the pod is activated, the pod flies away while the rest of the rocket stays intact.
Below that, we have a fuel tank with multiple smaller parts attached. You can't see it now, but when the larger stages of the rocket are jettisoned, you'll see an engine attached to the tank. There's also landing legs, batteries, and solar panels to help the craft land on something like a planet or moon (although this rocket can't actually reach past Kerbin's moon very well). There's also another decoupler attached to the tank.
Below that, we have a huge fuel tank to feed the main engine that's at the bottom of the rocket. I should mention there's two types of rocket engines: Liquid fuel and solid fuel. Liquid fuel engines generally need to be fed by a fuel tank, although some of them have a built-in tank. Solid fuel engines always come with their fuel tank attached, but once this kind of engine is lit, it can't be put out, which is why they're usually only used for large boosters for assisting the rocket during it's initial take-off.
Of course, I already told you there's an engine at the bottom of the rocket, but there's also large boosters and wings on the side of the main fuel tank. These are filled with solid fuel. On top of the boosters are some aerodynamic caps to prevent instability.
The entire rocket is only held up with some clamps, so once the clamps are released, you better start the engines too!
You can arrange the stages using the VAB's sidebar UI, but it won't appear until you place some parts. The final stage will be labelled 0, and the earlier stages ascend in number. I'll give you a picture of what it's like inside the VAB.
This is where everyone starts at some point!
Let's see how to control the rocket.
Flight controls aren't exactly easy to master at first. When you spawn your rocket on the Launchpad, you'll the keys W, A, S, D move the ship around, but that movement is based off your own rotation, which is controlled with Q and E.
Before you launch, press M to see your map. You can use the scrollwheel to zoom in and out.
Use left-shift to throttle up, and left-control to throttle down. Space will activate the largest stage number-wise.
T will turn on SAS, which automatically keeps your craft more stable in flight by using the ship's wings, reaction wheels, docking thrusters, and engine gimbal.
Hmm, is it just me, or is there something wrong?
If you don't want to read everything I said above, just press T to enable SAS, press Z to instantly set the throttle to it's maximum, press Space, and it flies. If it stops flying, try pressing Space again.
Alright, so this all sounds very complicated, and you're right! It's literally rocket science. Wanna keep flying? Go visit the useful information at the Kerbal Space Program wiki. They've got nice guides on how to actually fly, get into orbit, and reach to the moon and planets above Kerbin. What I've given you is just a brief taste of how to start the game.